Jul 19, 2018
As technology continues to saturate society with easy access to knowledge, students’ ability to think deeply and critically about their subject material and the world remains as important as ever. Here’s how to motivate and develop your young critical thinker.
Critical thinking skills lie at the heart of education. Without them, the learning process is little more than memorization and no application – to ourselves, to our world, to our reality.
For students, critical thinking skills mean the difference between a nominal grasp of content and a deeper understanding of what we know and why that information is important. That deeper understanding translates, in turn, to higher marks, a better grasp of complex ideas, and a critical awareness with lifelong application beyond school as digital technology makes knowledge easier to obtain.
To enhance students’ academic potential, tutors need to nurture critical thinking skills along with knowledge of subject or test material. Here are several strategies that tutors can build into any lesson plan:
1. Make Time for Thinking
When we’re under pressure to answer a question or provide our analysis promptly, we may neglect to fully think through our answer. During a discussion on new subject material or an unfamiliar test question, encourage your students to take upwards of a minute or two to consider their responses. They can reflect silently or use paper to think through the issues. While they won’t have the luxury of time come test time, taking the time to critically reflect before answering allows students to better grasp what they know and why. The result is stronger answers, and a more prepared student.
2. Pose Constructive Questions
The Socratic method of teaching is a well-known approach to learning. There’s significant benefit in posing an overarching question to students that relates to the theme or content of your tutoring lesson. In formulating your question, consider what students should take away from the lesson: what’s ultimately important and how can they apply that knowledge in the real world?
3. Consider the ‘Why?’
Education is an opportunity for self-reflection, to reflect on why we think what we do. That’s why those all-important metacognitive skills are key to students’ academic and future success. When students struggle with a new concept or question, work with them to encourage self-exploration. Can they articulate what they find easy or difficult? Can they identify the method or technique to learn the material? The more self-aware students are of what they know and why, the more capable they are of tackling unfamiliar terrain.
4. Work in Real Life Problem-Solving
Understanding a new idea or fact out of context can be challenging for any student. With the recent turn to problem-based learning, educators are bringing context back into the equation, by applying concepts that students learn in science, math, and reading/writing to scenarios in the world around them.
There are plenty of ways to encourage critical thinking. Each method’s strength depends on the student and how tutors can adapt methods accordingly. The key to any successful method is to engage students in higher-level thinking: the “why” and “how,” and not merely the “what.” These critical thinking skills will carry students well into their careers, as they analyze new information and build a bigger picture of the world around them.